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Film Reviews: Bad Boys: Ride or Die

FILM REVIEW
Bad Boys: Ride or Die
Rated R
115 Minutes
Released June 7th

Bad Boys: Ride or Die is the fourth installment in Jerry Bruckheimer’s Bad Boys franchise, which began with Bad Boys in 1995. This is a skillfully crafted thriller, well-balanced between the story thread and fast-paced action that gradually gathers momentum until the final fight, which is completely over-the-top. The narrative is clear throughout, so you know who is involved in the battles. This movie picks up where Bad Boys For Life (2020) left off. As I noted in last week’s review of the Bruckheimer-produced Young Woman and the Sea, his films show a pattern of strong characters, gripping story, extraordinary visuals, and a flowing pace. Nearly 30 years after the first film in the Bad Boys series, the pair of hapless heroes played by Will Smith as “Mike Lowrey” and Martin Lawrence as “Marcus Burnett,” are dealing with challenges appropriate to their age, and Smith and Lawrence work like brothers, bouncing quick rapport off one another with ease.

Probably no one will watch Will Smith without having in mind his unfortunate 2022 on-camera “Oscar Slap” moment, for which he has apologized multiple times. Once you’re wrapped up in the story, however, Smith’s “Lowrey” becomes simply human, flaws and all, with a genuine intent to make things right. The actor’s personal life was not ignored in writing his character. Lowrey endures psychological agony, PTSD, and panic attacks, and Smith plays them all with emotionally on-target finesse. It’s an interesting process for the audience to come to the realization that both Lowrey and Smith are flawed men with good intentions. Smith snuck into a movie theatre in disguise on opening night to gauge audience reaction and was pleased enough that he revealed himself as the credits rolled, receiving applause.

Lawrence’s Marcus is also given a dilemma to work out, with a health scare threatening his passion for junk food. The writers seem to have used the real lives of the two stars to feed character-building blocks in an intriguing way so that we can believe that they are still the same two “Bad Boys” we have known since 1995. Lawrence’s performance is endearing and colorful, as he gives in to childlike cravings and then tries to rationalize his propensity to take risks, which include consuming huge quantities of junk food. Lawrence is one of those few actors who can fearlessly tread the ledge between drama and humor and never slip off. 

Another cast member worth mentioning is Jacob Scipio as “Armando,” who also appeared in Bad Boys for Life. This British actor, whose father is from Guyana and whose mother is English, gives his role intensity and conveys tragic acceptance of his situation while radiating charisma. Scipio has written short films and appeared in musicals, stage productions and British TV since childhood. I expect to see much more of him. Also a stand-out is Dennis Greene as “Reggie,” Marcus’s son-in-law. Greene nails some of the funniest scenes in the film with his unexpected deadpan comedy.

I applaud directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, known as “Adil and Bilall,” who also directed Bad Boys for Life. Both are Belgian and met at film school in their home country. They did a superb job with this film.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die has given the summer box office an unexpected jump start. I believe that this is not simply because it’s an action film that carries name recognition and an A-list cast. It’s because it’s an extraordinarily well-made film combining fast-paced action and compelling story with layered characters, all with a sense of humor lurking in the background. When you make a movie well, audiences will go on the ride with you, and word gets out about what a great ride it is.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people.  She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com

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